Rear actomyosin contractility-driven directional cell migration in three-dimensional matrices: a mechano-chemical coupling mechanism

Qingjia Chi, Tieying Yin, Hans Gregersen, Xiaoyan Deng, Yubo Fan, Jingbo Zhao, Donghua Liao, Guixue Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Cell migration is of vital importance in many biological processes, including organismal development, immune response and development of vascular diseases. For instance, migration of vascular smooth muscle cells from the media to intima is an essential part of the development of atherosclerosis and restenosis after stent deployment. While it is well characterized that cells use actin polymerization at the leading edge to propel themselves to move on two-dimensional substrates, the migration modes of cells in three-dimensional matrices relevant to in vivo environments remain unclear. Intracellular tension, which is created by myosin II activity, fulfils a vital role in regulating cell migration. We note that there is compelling evidence from theoretical and experimental work that myosin II accumulates at the cell rear, either isoform-dependent or -independent, leading to three-dimensional migration modes driven by posterior myosin II tension. The scenario is not limited to amoeboid migration, and it is also seen in mesenchymal migration in which a two-dimensional-like migration mode based on front protrusions is often expected, suggesting that there may exist universal underlying mechanisms. In this review, we aim to shed some light on how anisotropic myosin II localization induces cell motility in three-dimensional environments from a biomechanical view. We demonstrate an interesting mechanism where an interplay between mechanical myosin II recruitment and biochemical myosin II activation triggers directional migration in three-dimensional matrices. In the case of amoeboid three-dimensional migration, myosin II first accumulates at the cell rear to induce a slight polarization displayed as a uropod-like structure under the action of a tension-dependent mechanism. Subsequent biochemical signalling pathways initiate actomyosin contractility, producing traction forces on the adhesion system or creating prominent motile forces through blebbing activity, to drive cells to move. In mesenchymal three-dimensional migration, cells can also take advantage of the elastic properties of three-dimensional matrices to move. A minor myosin isoform, myosin IIB, is retained by relatively stiff three-dimensional matrices at the posterior side, then activated by signalling cascades, facilitating prominent cell polarization by establishing front-back polarity and creating cell rear. Myosin IIB initiates cell polarization and coordinates with the major isoform myosin IIA-assembled stress fibres, to power the directional migration of cells in the three-dimensional matrix.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20131072
JournalJournal of the Royal Society. Interface
Issue number95
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Rear actomyosin contractility-driven directional cell migration in three-dimensional matrices: a mechano-chemical coupling mechanism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this